Necessary Steps

Start with a task force that is planning the overall Friendship Ablaze! emphasis, including getting ready for guests and intentional follow-up. One or two people on that task force should be responsible for the actual Friendship Sunday event. They should gather a team of people to help them with the planning and carrying out of the event as outlined on this list.

Step 1: Getting Ready – 8 weeks before

This is probably the most important step in your planning.

Pray: Staff and leadership begin to pray for the Lord’s guidance for Friendship Ablaze! planning.

Assemble a planning team to accomplish these tasks. In some congregations, a team member may perform more than one of these tasks:

  • Team Leader
  • Secretary/Treasurer  
  • Publicity Coordinator
  • Follow-Up Coordinator
  • Staff Advisor
  • Other (for example, food coordinator)
  • Ministry representatives (to integrate the even t through all ministry areas):
    • Day School  
    • Sunday School
    • Youth   
    • Adults  

Each position should be filled by someone with:

  • a commitment to outreach
  • leadership skills
  • an ability to recruit others to assist in their areas

Read: Before the first planning meeting, team members need to carefully read Friendship Ablaze! materials for all areas of the emphasis so that they understand the bigger picture into which their particular work will be placed.

Develop prayer support and a prayer list for Friendship Ablaze! so congregation members feel ownership in the planning. See the Prayer section

Select a date for your Celebration and distribute timeline calendars to team, staff, board chairs, and ministry leaders.

Prepare mailing labels for a congregational mailing with a letter from the pastor casting the Friendship Ablaze! vision and garnering their prayer and participation.

Mail information to people in your visitor database, and those who may have attended events in the past year (i.e. VBS, seminars, concerts, fellowship events, etc).

Select Bible studies from the resources provided to be used in the weeks prior to the celebration.

Develop sermons and children’s sermons utilizing resources provided.

Enlist children, youth, adult and school leaders/teachers to coordinate their lessons with the celebration theme. See school resources.

Plan one or more witnessing workshops or classes to train members to share their faith more confidently and effectively. The “Share Life” kit, available from Concordia Publishing House, is a good witnessing training. Your regional or national denominational office may also have resources available.

Have pastor and worship team plan special worship service utilizing resources provided. Plan for all elements (sermon, children’s sermon, music, order of service, bulletins, etc.) to be as visitor-friendly as possible.

Follow-up Coordinator recruit follow-up team and determine type of follow-up to be used for this event.

Set evaluation date following the event based on desired outcomes for this event.

Add any other steps you feel appropriate at this time.

Step 2: Publicity – 6 weeks before 

Publicizing and promoting your celebration is a crucial task, as is involving your members. Involve as many as possible.

  • Write articles for church newsletter, bulletin and website.
  • Place attractive posters in your church and community.
  • Make an attractive flyer and/or postcard available to members to give to friends and distribute in the community.
  • Prepare a church lawn banner.
  • Develop a simple, attractive brochure outlining the congregation’s ministries to be distributed at the celebration.
  • Advertise in the local newspapers, on radio and TV, and on your website. A human interest story in the newspaper is especially compelling. Use as many venues as possible.
  • Use bulletin paragraphs and other Friendship Ablaze! resources to encourage members to catch the vision.
  • Use personal testimonies during worship leading up to the celebration. Have a new church member who was brought to the congregation by a friend tell what that meant to them.
  • Present short skits demonstrating inviting a friend or sharing a faith story.

Step 3: Equipping Members – 4 weeks before

The goal of your Friendship Ablaze! celebration is to encourage your members to share the Gospel with as many unchurched people as possible.

  • Before the celebration, offer Friendship Ablaze! Bible study opportunities throughout the congregation for all ages. 
  • Use special worship resources in the three weeks prior to Friendship Sunday.
  • Help members identify unchurched family, friends, neighbors, co-workers they can witness to and invite.
  • Develop “invitations” (flyers/postcards) for members to use when they invite their friends.
  • Encourage and enlist all children and youth to invite their unchurched friends as well.
  • Pray that members will be bold in their witness and their inviting and that God would soften the hearts of those invited.
  • Remind members to build on relationships that already exist with unchurched friends.
  • Provide invitation commitment forms for members. “I will invite ___________.”
  • Invite identified friends to come to the celebration.
  • Consider “canvassing” the neighborhood with invitations.
  • Remind members of their on-going follow-up responsibility to invited friends and assist them with ideas to accomplish this.
  • Train follow-up team to make follow-up visits with guests.

Step 4: Getting Ready for Guests – 3 weeks before

Are you ready for company? See the detailed information in Welcoming Guests Well.  Note these tasks, for example:

  • Several weeks before your celebration, take a tour of your entire facility looking at it from a visitor’s perspective. Spruce up as needed.
  • Be sure the nursery is clean and well staffed.
  • Be sure signage throughout the building is clear and concise.

Step 5: Friendship Ablaze! Celebration

All planned activities for your celebration should be designed to connect the guest to your friend, Jesus! Use your celebration as a springboard to an on-going focus on inviting unchurched friends to your church throughout the year for worship and other special events. Keep good records on all visitors to make follow-up easier.

  • Provide name tags for guests and members.
  • Have everyone record their attendance, with guests encouraged to complete all contact information. Email addresses would also be very helpful for your visitor database. Give this information to the Follow-Up Team leader.
  • Used trained greeters, ushers and parking attendants. Put all members on “high alert” to greet guests and invite them to return.
  • Provide a small gift for each guest.
  • Take photographs and/or video of your Friendship Ablaze! activities to share with your congregation after the event in newsletter follow-up articles or a special PowerPoint presentation.
  • Provide a hospitality area with refreshments and information (brochure) about your church’s ministries.

Step 6: Follow-UP – within 1 week of the event

Three reasons follow-up is important:

  1. It shows you care.
  2. It builds and nurtures a relationship.
  3. It provides opportunity to invite them back for other events.

A guest’s visit needs to be acknowledged in a timely manner, their needs identified, a return visit encouraged, and on-going contact and invitation to other church events extended. See Developing an Intentional Follow-Up Strategy for details. Here are some examples:

  • Establish a database of all visitor information.
  • Prioritize contacts for most effective follow-up.
  • The follow-up team provides a plan for follow-up.  This may include:
    • A thank you letter (with Adult Information class brochure included)
    • A phone call
    • A personal visit
    • An email conta ct with ch urch web site address and information
  • A newspaper article celebrating the event with pictures
  • A church display with pictures after the event
  • Personal contacts are made the week following the event, thanking visitors for attending and identifying needs they may have that the church may be able to help with. Record all contact information and responses.
  • Refer specific needs to appropriate staff or ministry leaders. Keep a record of all contacts and outcomes.
  • Provide any additional information requested verbally, via email or mail.
  • Provide members with ideas on ways to build on-going bridges of friendship to more adequately minister to friends’ needs.
  • Continue offering witness training opportunities for your members throughout the year.
  • Put visitors on mailing or email list to receive information on future events. 

For printer-friendly version, see "Planning Guides" in the Downloads library.